Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ and the play that tells the story has been done thousands of times. Many of us know it and all its parts. What actually happened is likely very different. Reading all of the gospel accounts, a different picture emerges. That is no fault of the play writers. It is hard to tell a long story in 30 minutes. Knowing some of the bible history and original languages also helps put together a story of what actually happened.
In a nutshell, she may have been there a few weeks when she gave birth. There were a lot of people in town, so she stayed in the “barn” to have her baby. That was probably the best place. Remember this is 2000 years ago and outside was not much different than inside for most people. They also brought their animals in at night, so the “barn” was just another room. The wisemen came about two years later after Mary and Joseph had returned to their home. Its a little less mystical, but it is more historical. So with that in mind, here is my idea of how it actually went down.
Luke 2:7 says she (Mary) gave birth and wrapped Jesus in cloths and laid him in a manger. She did this because there was no room at the Inn.
No room at the Inn?
What exactly was this “Inn” where there was no room?
We get the idea of a crusty old hotel manager who has no rooms, so he sends them out into the cold and somehow they end up in a barn. But what is more likely, is that the “Inn” was not a hotel at all, but a guest room in someone’s house – probably family – since Mary and Joseph were both from the immediate area.
Also earlier in Luke Chapter 1, Mary visits Elizabeth who gives birth to John the Baptist. Luke 2:6 says “While” they were there Mary gave birth. Apparently they were already settled in wherever it was they were staying when Jesus was born. It does also seem likely that she may still have been at Elizabeth’s house. It says “while” she was there. It is possible Jesus was born with a few months old John the Baptist sitting on Elizabeth’s lap. It says when Mary heard Elizabeth was pregnant, she went to see her. That was about 100 miles on foot. It seems likely she would have just stayed there until her own baby was born, instead of making another trip.
The Other Room
The word used for “Inn” in the original languages means simply a room. It is only used three times in the New Testament. The other two times it is used (Mark 14:14 and Luke 22:11) is when Jesus asked his disciples to go and prepare the Upper Room for the last supper. The NIV translates the word “Guest” room.
There was no room at the “inn” or guestroom there, where they were staying, so Mary gave birth in the “outer” room.
This outer room would also be where animals were brought for the night, and likely there would be a manger there. In these times in Israel, there was not a lot of difference between a barn and a home. They were normally built together anyway to allow easy access from the house.
When Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan, who put up a wounded Jew at an inn and paid the Innkeeper, the word for Inn is a different word in Greek. This is in Luke 10:34 and it is the only time the word is used in the New Testament.
We have already seen that both Mary and Joseph had relatives in the area, including Elizabeth, who Mary might have been staying with all along anyway. So it is really possible that they stayed with relatives.
After Jesus birth
After Jesus’ birth Mary and Joseph hung around Bethlehem for awhile. Luke 2:21 says Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day after his birth, according to Jewish law, and was given the name Jesus. This was likely done at the temple in Jerusalem, which was only two miles away.
Luke 2:23 says when the “time of purification according to the law of Moses had been completed,” they took Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. This would definitely have been at the temple in Jerusalem.
Leviticus chapter 12 spells all this out. The first born was to be presented and dedicated to the Lord in the temple. First there had to be the eight days until circumcision, which was also the amount of time Mary would have been considered unclean. The “days of purification” was 33 days according to Leviticus 12, and only then could the baby Jesus be taken to the temple. This was 40 days or so after Jesus birth.
In Luke 2:39 it says they returned to Galilee and Jesus grew up.
Luke does not record many things that Matthew does and vice versa. From Luke we get the idea they left the temple and headed out to Galilee, but Matthew shows it wasn’t quiet that simple. The two accounts fit together beautifully, but they do give different information.